IN THIS ISSUE:
- Welcome: “Less TV + More Talk = Better Kids”
- Feature: “Tests a poor substitute for good parenting”
- Teacher/Parent Book Pick: “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill”
- K-3 Book Pick: “Madlenka”
- 4-6 Book Pick: “A Wrinkle in Time”
- Web Discoveries: “National Institute on Media and the Family”
- Words of Wisdom: “Time – Our priceless resource”
WELCOME: “Less TV + More Talk = Better Kids”
It’s always reassuring when scientific studies confirm things that common sense told us in the first place. This month’s themes are TV, time and talk. Reducing media consumption is one way to improve communications with your children and students.
Did you ever suspect that too much TV makes kids fat and out of shape?
Me, too. It’s also been the topic of many newscasts. Here’s a transcript from NewsHour Online with Betty Ann Bowser reporting. She mentions a Stanford University researcher who confirmed it.
Did you ever suspect that exposure to violent TV shows and video games makes kids more aggressive?
Well, you’re right again. A new Stanford study indicates that reducing children’s exposure to media violence improves their behavior and makes them less aggressive. You can see an abstract of the study here:
Our feature is a news editorial commenting on this study and another style of behavior modification parents are trying in Southern New Jersey.
In the end, there’s no substitute for the *most* effective guidance tool teachers and parents have; talking with your children.
Kent Davis – Editor
PS – Jeanne still has dates available for our award-winning K-6 Life Skills assembly programs. To bring this assembly to your school, go to http://www.lifeskills4kids.com/assembly.html or call Jeanne at 800-262-2162.
FEATURE: “Sobering moment -
Tests are a poor substitute for good parenting”
Reprinted with permission from The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 18, 2001
A teenaged boy returns home late on a Friday and finds his parents still up and sitting in the living room.
Son: Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. W’assup?
(Stony silence from mom and dad.)
Son: Is something wrong?
Mom: Son, we’d like to put this little cotton swab in your mouth.
Soon, homes throughout the region, even the nation, may be reenacting similar scenes as parents jump at the chance to use a sobriety test that gauges blood-alcohol levels by analyzing saliva swabs.
As reported this week by The Inquirer’s Brendan January, the sobriety kits are being given free to parents by concerned officials in Voorhees, NJ. At just $7 each, it’s a bet parents elsewhere will conclude this is a nifty way to tell if their kids have been drinking.
Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Just stick a cotton swab in their mouths.
It is possible to imagine some exceptional circumstances and some exceptionally desperate parents who might need such a test.
But for most families, this is *baaad* parenting. How come? Because if communication has broken down so much that one must rely on involuntary tests, then something has already gone seriously wrong in the parent-child relationship.
Snoop on your kids – who doesn’t? But demeaning tests only break down trust. The point, after all, is to teach them how to live responsibly, not just encourage them to find sneaky ways to evade tests.
From society’s perspective, what’s with this juvenile testing craze anyway? Teens are being screened for alcohol and drugs, X-rayed for weapons. The danger again is that hi-tech testing is replacing the low-tech guidance and supervision that all youngsters require from grownups.
And now for some positive parenting advice.
The Stanford study cited above reinforces what earlier studies have found: Cutting back on watching TV and playing video games makes kids less aggressive. Even if they’re already too aggressive, the cutbacks help return them to a more acceptable behavior.
A simple solution, said researchers, is to take the television out of the kid’s room and then monitor what’s watched in the family space.
Better yet, don’t set off on the wrong foot by giving tykes their own TV’s in the first place. At risk of sounding like Dear Abby here – parents who are loving but also firm and in-control produce more responsible children and young adults.
Ones who don’t need a cotton swab to be trusted.
TEACHER/PARENT BOOK PICKS
“Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill:
A Call to Action Against TV, Movie and Video Game Violence”
by Dave Grossman, et al
The goal of this book is to make people aware of what the prolific use of violence in television, movies, and video games is doing to our children.
Amazon has more than 50 reviews posted with wide ranging opinions.
GRADE K-3 BOOK PICKS
Madlenka by Peter Sis
Here’s a selection to help younger readers shape their concepts of time and space. Madlenka is a mind-opening book about our relationship to the world. The author takes children on an exotic journey to foreign lands, but then brings them back to what they know; in this case, a wiggly tooth! The illustrations and text flowing in odd places make the book truly interactive and fun to read.
GRADE 4-6 BOOK PICK
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
When children watch less TV they have to learn to spend that time wisely. Here’s a book about *time travel*. A girl named Meg and her brother Charles get involved in time travel quite by accident. In the end, they’re charged with saving their scientist father and the entire solar system. The book has fantasy and science fiction elements but it’s really about growing up, and relying on individual and collective strengths. Oh, and the book itself is something of a “time traveler” – it’s a 1963 (yes, nearly 40 years ago!) Newbery Award winner.
WEB DISCOVERIES: for teachers, parents & kids
The National Institute on Media and the Family
This is an excellent site for teachers and parents interested in the influence of electronic media on early childhood education, child development, academic performance, culture and violence.
The site is easy to navigate and fun to explore. The Institute offers plenty of unique resources including: movie, television and video game content ratings; media awareness programs; and helpful hints for parents and families to evaluate their media use.
Here are a few highlights (there are *plenty* more):
12 Tips to Tame the Tube
How to control the TV in your house.
This innovative, easy-to-use rating system takes the guesswork out of choosing appropriate TV shows, movies and videogames for your children.
Video Game Fact Sheet
A one page summary with the pros, cons and facts about video games and their effect on children.
Safety Tips for Surfing the Net
Setting ground rules for accessing the internet.
WORDS OF WISDOM: “Time – Our priceless resource”
It’s fun for kids to take time watching TV and playing video games. They can even learn a lot from them. But, when kids devote too much time to electronic media, or when adults don’t supervise the activities, kids can waste time better spent on productive pursuits.
The quotes below give us a look at how to use the time we have. Many concepts will be too abstract for younger children, but are great conversation starters with older kids.
“I try to do the right thing at the right time.
They may just be little things,
but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.”
“Fools look to tomorrow; wise men use tonight.”
“It does not matter how slowly you go,
so long as you do not stop.”
“Time is the coin of your life.
It is the only coin you have,
and only you can determine how it will be spent.”
“Time is the most valuable thing that a man can spend.”
“Many of us spend half our time
wishing for things we could have
if we didn’t spend half our time wishing.”
This guide has cross-curricular lessons teachers can use before, during, and after reading “Wrinkle in Time”. The reproducible book has sample plans, vocabulary building ideas, author information, cross-curriculum activities, sectional activities and quizzes, unit tests, and ideas for culminating and extending the novel mentioned above.